Kendipalooza: The Only Remedy to Past Discrimination is Present Discrimination #1
In his best-selling book How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram Xolani Kendi (born Ibram Henry Rogers), wrote, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” This claim, more than any other we examined on our Reverse Q&A tour, needs thoughtful examination because it is the core idea behind “equity”—a principle which has transformed virtually every institution in our society within the last seven years. And this is exactly why I conducted the epistemological exercise/game with this statement more than any other.
In the same paragraph, Kendi explicitly notes the importance of discrimination as a method for bringing about equity. And one would think that along with the ubiquitous adoption of equity as a value, most people would understand what it is, why it matters, and how it’s transforming our institutions. But most people do not. In fact, as these videos show, participants have not thought as deeply about the claim as they should, given its prominence in American moral life.
I want to be clear that I do not think equity, or rectifying past discrimination against African Americans by discriminating against non-African Americans, is the way forward. I think it is an indelible vandalism on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But these Reverse Q&As are not about what I think, they are about what students think, why they think it, and what it would take to change their minds. With a few targeted questions, the reasons why “The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination” is held tenaciously are revealed, along with the attitudes that keep the belief in place.
As always, please feel free to leave comments below or in the videos. My team and I read every comment and use these as a source of improvement.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll share six RQ&A discussions on Kendi’s claim. This first conversation is between four students at a university in Oregon.